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Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories

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Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations. And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the “Jew Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations. And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the “Jewish Mark Twain,” who wrote under the pen name of Sholem Aleichem. Beautifully translated by Hillel Halkin, here is Sholem Aleichem’s heartwarming and poignant account of Tevye and his daughters, together with the “Railroad Stories,” twenty-one tales that examine human nature and modernity as they are perceived by men and women riding the trains from shtetl to shtetl.


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Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations. And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the “Jew Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations. And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the “Jewish Mark Twain,” who wrote under the pen name of Sholem Aleichem. Beautifully translated by Hillel Halkin, here is Sholem Aleichem’s heartwarming and poignant account of Tevye and his daughters, together with the “Railroad Stories,” twenty-one tales that examine human nature and modernity as they are perceived by men and women riding the trains from shtetl to shtetl.

30 review for Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Stumpp

    Sholem Aleichem, a Yiddish idiom which basically means, “Hey, what’s up?” is the pseudonym of Sholem Rabinovich, who has been heralded as the Jewish Mark Twain and who, in my opinion, favorably deserves the comparison. I became interested in reading this book when I learned it was the inspiration for Fiddler on the Roof, one of a precious few Broadway musicals my stomach is strong enough to endure. The novel runs just 131 pages, made up of eight episodes written and published over a twenty-three Sholem Aleichem, a Yiddish idiom which basically means, “Hey, what’s up?” is the pseudonym of Sholem Rabinovich, who has been heralded as the Jewish Mark Twain and who, in my opinion, favorably deserves the comparison. I became interested in reading this book when I learned it was the inspiration for Fiddler on the Roof, one of a precious few Broadway musicals my stomach is strong enough to endure. The novel runs just 131 pages, made up of eight episodes written and published over a twenty-three year period, from 1894 to 1917. As an episodic novel, or a novel told in a cycle of short-stories, it is exemplary. Each episode manages to both build on the previous installments and still remain self-sustaining unto itself. The episodes happen in real time. That is to say, if five years have passed since the publication of the previous episode, Tevye is five years older at the onset of the next one, so that by the end of the novel Tevye has aged twenty-three years since the first, just as the author has aged twenty-three years, and, theoretically, just as the reader has aged. How effortlessly Alecheim sustains the narrative over such a span is one of the interesting things about the novel, for me. Tevye’s maturation seems seamless, natural, and believable. The reader can sense throughout the narrative that Tevye is changing, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, and not necessarily in response to major events in the plot, but just as a matter of course, because he is aging. Tevye as a character and as a narrator becomes a joyous treat. The narrative mode is a series of monologues in which Tevye directly speaks to Sholem Aleichem, who apparently writes the stories down at a later date. This makes the voice conversational, homey, colorful, and occasionally digressive. The style is easy to read and quickly absorbing, as the reader feels as if he is listening to an old man spinning a clever yarn. The effect is that we think of Tevye, and not necessarily the author, as an entertaining storyteller. Tevye fancies himself a scholar and constantly misquotes scripture or quotes it humorously out of context. “Tevye is no woman,” is the most often repeated phrase in the novel, humorous because, as Ryan pointed out to me, if Tevye had been more inclined to behave “womanly,” he might have avoided the misadventures that provide the basis of the plot. But Tevye, like many men, is only superficially a misogynist. The most compelling aspect of the story is his powerful, constant affection for his daughters and his unflinching pursuit of their happiness. Aleichem, like Twain, uses humor as a means toward social criticism, and like Twain avoids ideological preachiness or scathing bitterness. His satire is warm and compassionate with a firm eye to the story. However, none of the sentimentalism of the musical is found in Tevye the Dairyman. Injustice, ignorance, and even death take important roles in the tales, and while the novel is far darker and more human than the musical, Aleichem’s triumph is the harmony with which he mingles comedy and tragedy, and the befuddled amusement with which his protagonist relates all his sad experiences. Despite his many flaws and sorrows Tevye’s good-will, humor, and charm ultimately carry the day. A tremendous short novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I finished "Tevye the Dairyman" part of the book. Tevye does take on the form of a perfect Jewish father. I definitely enjoyed meeting him. Some of the lines are great. Each chapter, each about a different daughter, all lead to the last chapter which imparts a wonderful message. I certainly was smiling at the end. I doubt if I end up giving this a ton of stars, but nevertheless I think it could be called a classic and would recommend all to read it. I am glad I met Tevye...and his daughters too. I finished "Tevye the Dairyman" part of the book. Tevye does take on the form of a perfect Jewish father. I definitely enjoyed meeting him. Some of the lines are great. Each chapter, each about a different daughter, all lead to the last chapter which imparts a wonderful message. I certainly was smiling at the end. I doubt if I end up giving this a ton of stars, but nevertheless I think it could be called a classic and would recommend all to read it. I am glad I met Tevye...and his daughters too. He is such a schlimazel (a chronically unlucky person). The stories and the humor is at times repetitive. I assume you know that this is the book from which Fiddler on the Roof was conceived. I cannot imagine a better translation than that done by Hillel Halkin. Now I am off to read the second section: "The Railroad Stories". I have found them less entertaining and too repetitive. I suppose one should not read more than one story a day. Books of short stories always give me trouble.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Miles

    So who is this Shalom Aleichem and how dare he rip off Fiddler on the Roof? Couldn't he at least come up with some original material? What?! Oh. I see. I'm being told that... I understand. If you read "Today's Children" and a few other stories in this volume you'll get the core stories of Fiddler on the Roof with lots of extra details. It's great! Tevye in the original Shalom Aleichem (pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich) has a bit more vinegar, drinks a good bit more, and throws around the So who is this Shalom Aleichem and how dare he rip off Fiddler on the Roof? Couldn't he at least come up with some original material? What?! Oh. I see. I'm being told that... I understand. If you read "Today's Children" and a few other stories in this volume you'll get the core stories of Fiddler on the Roof with lots of extra details. It's great! Tevye in the original Shalom Aleichem (pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich) has a bit more vinegar, drinks a good bit more, and throws around the nonsense Talmud with even greater abandon than he does on film. He's dirtier, and poorer too. But the spirit that actor Chaim Topol brought to the film's character is still spot on. Shalom Aleichem's Tevye is a man with a good heart and a world of troubles, who will endure this world's trials with sharp humor. The words he speaks and the attitudes he cultivates are his survival secret and Shalom Aleichem's magic. Was Shalom Aleichem the "Jewish Mark Twain"? Yeah, I think it fits. Sometimes the details are almost too much. I imagine that the endless detail of the originals was a valued part of the experience in 1890 or 1900 when first published. The same leisurely pace in 2012 is occasionally tiresome. I didn't read every story, or even every word of some of the stories that I did read, but I enjoyed the experience. Like any American Jew who has seen Fiddler on the Roof more than once, and who has never read much of Shalom Aleichem, I could only read these stories with the film version playing in my mind, helplessly noticing when the text overlapped the film (really, vice versa), and when it ran off in its own playful direction. Watching the hash Tevye makes of Hebrew phrases (presented in transliteration) is one of the special delights for those who know a little Hebrew, but not being able to do so takes away little from the overall pleasure. Having recently re-watched Fiddler on the Roof, now a basic cultural artifact of American Jewish life, with my children it was a delight to return to the source material and experience Shalom Aleichem's world in three dimensions and high definition.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Josephine (biblioseph)

    "What's new with a fellow Jew?" "In a word..." "Let's not make a short story long..." "Then again..." "On the other hand..." "What's new with a fellow Jew?" "In a word..." "Let's not make a short story long..." "Then again..." "On the other hand..."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sherril

    Ok. So I didn’t actually read Sholem Aleichem ‘s, Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories. I will. I promise. I did read Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Stories for Children, a story a night to my daughter who was then perhaps 9 or 10 and now 38. They were stories of a town's foolish elders in the shtetls of Eastern Europe in the late 1800’s. She loved the stories. So did I. Though I haven’t read Tevye the Dairyman (I did buy it on my kindle) I recently saw Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. That’s even Ok. So I didn’t actually read Sholem Aleichem ‘s, Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories. I will. I promise. I did read Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Stories for Children, a story a night to my daughter who was then perhaps 9 or 10 and now 38. They were stories of a town's foolish elders in the shtetls of Eastern Europe in the late 1800’s. She loved the stories. So did I. Though I haven’t read Tevye the Dairyman (I did buy it on my kindle) I recently saw Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. That’s even better than reading the book and here’s why. Over the years there have been 4 Broadway revivals since the original Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel which opened in 1964. The others were: 1976, 1981, 1990, 2004. The newest iteration, number 6, is Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, or “Fidler Afn Dakh” and it marks the first time the musical is being performed in Yiddish in the United States, and only the second time in its history (a Yiddish version ran for about four weeks in Israel in 1965). I have seen Fiddler 4 times (with the Playbills to prove it): 1966 (Herschel Bernardi) 1991 (Topol), 2005 (Harvey Feierstein) and now in 2019 (Steven Skybell). You may ask, why would I go to see it for the 5th time? Why? Because, this newest version was in Yiddish and I had received rave reviews from friends. I was not disappointed! It has been said by others and I resoundingly agree, this Fiddler on the Roof, in Yiddish, is the most authentic of them all. The story is about a shtetl in Russia and the people it represents spoke Yiddish. They were pious people who prayed in Hebrew. They lived amongst the “goyim”, so perhaps they knew a bit of Russian. But among themselves Yiddish was the lingua franca. Yiddish was the mamaloshen, the language of our mothers and hearing it being spoken on a broadway stage when in the past people would make fun of Yiddish, or not want to associate themselves with it in order to feel safe or to feel American, “It’s a balm to hear it spoken openly, freely, funnily, heartbreakingly, and to know that it’s the real thing”. Most American Jews are Ashkenazim and in a broad view these people speaking this language are who we came from. Fiddler on the Roof is based on a series of short stories by Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, better known by his pen-name, Sholem Aleichem. They were originally written in Yiddish, and first published in 1894. The stories are based on the fictional characters, Tevye, the pious Jewish milkman in Tsarist Russia with his wife, Golde and their 6 daughters: Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, Beilke, and Teibel (5 in the show). In this Current production, the “Fiddler” is perfectly played by a young woman (Lauren Jeanne Thomas) and by perfectly I mean she looks like she’s stepped out of one of Marc Chagall’s iconic paintings (Green Violinist (1924), Le Mort (1924), The Fiddler (1912)). I loved “Der Fidler’s” costume and the way she was on the one hand ever so slightly bent over to suggest her precarious position on the proverbial roof, yet on the other hand, sprite and light on her feet, suggesting her energy and perseverance. The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival in a life of uncertainty, “precarious as a fiddler on a roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck” (in this case, her neck). The fiddler also represents “Tradition”, that Tevye sings of in the opening number, the traditions that Tevye is trying to hold onto. In the final scene, when the Jews are expelled from their homes in Anatevka, Tevye beckons with a nod, and the fiddler, their symbolic backbone, follows them out of the village. The poignancy is felt by everyone in the audience. Steven Skybell is a less physically robust Tevye than what we are used to in the traditional productions, but he is no less robust in his portrayal of the over burdened dairy man, father and husband who has his own personal discussions with God trying to make sense of what God has given him. He plays the part with equal earnestness and humor. I was mesmerized when Tevye raises his arms and fingers and shakes them in that “Yiddish” way to the heavens as he sings (think Tradition!) and dances (think the celebration scene when Tzeitel’s wedding is announced, To Life!). This physicality brought to my mind a memory of my first trip to Israel in 1968. As Tevye reaches deep into his soul, so do his fingers reach out to heaven, bringing to mind the branches of the bare olive trees, stretching up and outward, also to heaven, as if also beseeching God, one after the other lining the Israeli countryside. Tevye pleads with his God, questioning how much can he bend and stray from tradition before he, like the taut tree branch, breaks? What’s interesting in this production is that even while not understanding most of them the Yiddish, the humor comes across with no language barrier at all, particularly in the roles of Tevye and Yente the matchmaker (Jackie Hoffman). “Yiddish, which is based on German with elements taken from Hebrew and other languages and is written with the Hebrew alphabet, was once spoken by millions of Eastern European Jews but fell victim both to the Holocaust and the pull of assimilation. Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won a Nobel Prize for his stories written in Yiddish, famously said the language “has been dying for a thousand years, and I’m sure it will go on dying for another thousand.” The dialogue and the songs were translated into English and Russian using “Super-Titles”. Being so familiar with the dialogue and especially the music and lyrics to the songs, I thought I would have no problem understanding and I was right. When I did read the titles (on the sides of the stage, not above it, as I thought they would be) there were two problems. The lighting structures obscured them a bit from our seats, which otherwise were excellent, and if I read the translation, I’d begin to forget to watch the actors. I had to actually remind myself to stop. Translation or no translation, the meaning, the drama and the exuberant music came through loud and clear! The production itself, regarding everything from the singing and dancing to the klezmer-inflected score, played by a lively 12-piece orchestra sitting in two locations on the stage behind yellowish-beige sheets, which allow for partial viewing of the musicians to the acting to the costumes to the simple, minimalist scenery (which spoke volumes) to the creative and stirring dream sequence with Fruma Soreh and Grandma Tzeitel to every subtle and forthright aspect was excellent, outstanding, exceptional! I had a few complaints (more about the audience than the show), but they were too few to mention. I dare not forget to acknowledge the Director of this Yiddish production of Fiddler on the Roof, Joel Grey (best known for Cabaret). He was asked to direct this show by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, a professional theater company in New York City which produces both Yiddish plays and plays translated into Yiddish. He responded, “So I thought very hard. And then I stopped thinking. I said, ‘I love this piece, I’ve loved it all my life, and I think I can do this. I don’t know how right now, but I think I can.’” And he did. What Joel Gray brought to his direction was that he came to it from an acting standpoint. He, like most of the cast surprisingly did not speak Yiddish, though his father was a great Yiddish comedian. When deciding whether to accept the challenge Joel Grey thought, O.K., there’s a Yiddish word I do know—beshert [destiny]. And I said yes, I’m going to do this. He had his actors rehearse all of the scenes in English first with him. They sat around a table and read the text in English, then they read the literal Yiddish translation, and then they read it in Yiddish. They’d go back and read it in English, and then go back and read it in Yiddish. It was a long arduous process and Joel really wanted the actors to get to the root of the characters and the scenes that are so beautifully written. As the director, Joel Grey had a passion for the production which was just incredible and which resulted in a most incredible Fiddler.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rissie

    Equal parts hilarious, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I think the translation had a lot to do with that. Here’s an example … “If you’re meant to strike it rich, you may as well stay home with your slippers on, because good luck will find you there too. The more it blow the better it goes, as King David says in his Psalms – and believe me, neither brains nor brawn has anything to do with it. …. A man slaves, works himself to the bone, is ready to lie down and die – it shouldn’t happen to the wor Equal parts hilarious, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I think the translation had a lot to do with that. Here’s an example … “If you’re meant to strike it rich, you may as well stay home with your slippers on, because good luck will find you there too. The more it blow the better it goes, as King David says in his Psalms – and believe me, neither brains nor brawn has anything to do with it. …. A man slaves, works himself to the bone, is ready to lie down and die – it shouldn’t happen to the worst enemy of the Jews. Suddenly, don’t ask me how or why, it rains gold on him from all sides. In a word, revakh vehatsoloh ya’amoyd layehudim , just like it says in the Bible!" Honestly, I loved Tevye the Dairyman, but the Railroad Stories didn't hold my interest. Together, they averaged three stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Frieda Vizel

    From the first story, this became an all time favorite. Sholom Aleichem created stories the likes of which I've never read in Yiddish. It was the kind of reading that stayed with me long after I closed the book. The Tevya the Dairyman character is ingenious - he is at once lovable but with so much human flaw, and his internal monologues are full of humor but also beautifully insightful. Tevya's tendency to quote the bible adds so much to his personality. He is the real shtetl man who despite his From the first story, this became an all time favorite. Sholom Aleichem created stories the likes of which I've never read in Yiddish. It was the kind of reading that stayed with me long after I closed the book. The Tevya the Dairyman character is ingenious - he is at once lovable but with so much human flaw, and his internal monologues are full of humor but also beautifully insightful. Tevya's tendency to quote the bible adds so much to his personality. He is the real shtetl man who despite his simple life is beautifully complex and full of life.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I have been familiar with the musical Fiddler on the Roof for most of my life, but only recently learned that it was based on a book. These stories are both funnier and much sadder than the musical. Tevye's voice is quite compelling, but Golde is not kindly portrayed. There is of course more to the book than was portrayed in the musical, the stories of two more daughters as well as an extension on the eldest daughters story, but I can easily see why these were not included. The second half, The I have been familiar with the musical Fiddler on the Roof for most of my life, but only recently learned that it was based on a book. These stories are both funnier and much sadder than the musical. Tevye's voice is quite compelling, but Golde is not kindly portrayed. There is of course more to the book than was portrayed in the musical, the stories of two more daughters as well as an extension on the eldest daughters story, but I can easily see why these were not included. The second half, The Railroad Stories, were generally lighter in tone and were something of a mixed bag, some were interesting and fun to read others were rather a drag. Popsugar challenge 2018: a book that is also a stage play or musical

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    “What’s new with a Jew?” I really liked this collection of stories, written between 1894-1911 by the so-called “Jewish Mark Twain”. There’s a long introduction, written by the translator, which provided valuable information to put the stories into historical context. I picked this up for the first collection, about Tevye the Dairyman and his daughters, which was the inspiration for the musical Fiddler on the Roof, but in the end I enjoyed the Railroad Stories even more. There are eight stories fea “What’s new with a Jew?” I really liked this collection of stories, written between 1894-1911 by the so-called “Jewish Mark Twain”. There’s a long introduction, written by the translator, which provided valuable information to put the stories into historical context. I picked this up for the first collection, about Tevye the Dairyman and his daughters, which was the inspiration for the musical Fiddler on the Roof, but in the end I enjoyed the Railroad Stories even more. There are eight stories featuring Tevye, the garrulous dairyman who annoys everyone by constantly quoting from the holy books; who moans bitterly about his poverty in one breath, then philosophically shrugs it off in the next. “In those days, with God’s help, I was poor as a devil.” “It’s like it says in the bible, I not only have no money, I also lack health, wealth and happiness.” “If from now until autumn the two of us earned a tenth of what it would take to make me half as rich as Brodsky, we wouldn’t be doing half badly.” Also recognizable from the musical are Golde, his long-suffering wife; his daughter Tsaytl, who marries the poor tailor instead of the rich butcher; his daughter Hodl who leaves her family to follow the revolutionary into exile; his daughter Chava, who breaks Tevye’s heart by marrying outside the faith. There are more daughters in the text, and more sad tales. The second set of stories are narrated by a man who travels across Russia in the third class compartment of a train which is crowded with Jews who pass the time telling each other possibly tall tales. My favorite is the farcical story told by the man whose son is named Itsik, “that’s short for Avrom-Yitzchok, though he really goes by Alter, which is what his mother, God bless her, took to calling him for good luck, being an only child and all that” after the death of their older son, Eisik. This confusion of names leads to the circumstance where “an only son, with an automatic, a guaranteed, a one-hundred-percent lifetime exemption,” is repeatedly called before the army draft board. My next favorite is the story of the Jew who was sentenced by the Russian governor to be flogged. His village raised money for bribes and went to great lengths to fake his death for the authorities, and helped him flee the country. Soon he began sending letters home, asking for money or else “only one choice would be left: either to drown himself on the spot… or come hell-bent back to Kaminka”, which is of course an unsettling prospect for his neighbors who had sworn he was dead.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marcus

    Wonderful and extremely funny, but also much sadder than the musical version, which can be difficult. Theodore Bikel can really break your heart with his voice.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This collection of short stories is really two separate collections put together: the Tevye the Dairyman Stories, and the Railroad Stories. The first set comprises the short stories that were the inspiration for the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Written over a span of twenty years, these stories offer fragments of Tevye's life as he comes to terms with the changing times and the growth of his daughters. The Railroad Stories do not feature Tevye, and are instead a disjointed collection of This collection of short stories is really two separate collections put together: the Tevye the Dairyman Stories, and the Railroad Stories. The first set comprises the short stories that were the inspiration for the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Written over a span of twenty years, these stories offer fragments of Tevye's life as he comes to terms with the changing times and the growth of his daughters. The Railroad Stories do not feature Tevye, and are instead a disjointed collection of narratives it seems Sholem Aleichem has collected on his many travels by railroad throughout Europe. There's no overwhelming theme to these collected stories, except perhaps koyl yisro'el khaveyrim ("all Jews are brethren") -- wherever you go, a Jew is a Jew. I was surprised to find that Tevye's world in these stories is so different from what is portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof (the play and the movie). For one thing, society is much more varied, and there are Jews on all levels and in all sorts of roles, not only in the shtetl living as peasants. Secularization plays a much more significant role in these stories than the play/movie would suggest, and Tevye finds himself straddling the gap between the religious and secular world even more precariously. Speaking of precarious, though, there's a noticeable lack of any fiddling; the image of the rooftop fiddler, Halkin's introduction explains, actually comes from a Marc Chagall painting. Perhaps the most colorful element of this collection is the language used. I really have to commend Halkin's translation -- it does a marvelous job of capturing the "feel" of Yiddish as I remember my grandparents speaking it. Halkin also does a great job of navigating the blended Yiddish, Russian, Polish, and Hebrew to craft a translation that keeps the essence not only of the meaning, but of Sholem Aleichem's famous wordplay and colorful turns of phrase. I don't read nearly enough Yiddish to be able to read the original and offer a line-by-line comparison to endorse the translation more fully, but this translation certainly had the right "feel," and evokes images of the world that so many immigrant Jews left behind to move to America (and elsewhere) at the turn of the last century. No wonder Sholem Aleichem received such a warm reception here when he emigrated!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan Grodsky

    I read the Tevye stories but only a few of the railroad stories. It's hard to review these stories as I would a typical book. It would be like critiquing my dear auntie Fay (née Stern) when she told how she and her mother and brother just barely made it past the immigration official in Halifax. You might, if you were not family, notice that the ending was weak. You would certainly notice that she never told it the same way twice. But if you dared -- dared -- to criticize, a squadron of angry Ste I read the Tevye stories but only a few of the railroad stories. It's hard to review these stories as I would a typical book. It would be like critiquing my dear auntie Fay (née Stern) when she told how she and her mother and brother just barely made it past the immigration official in Halifax. You might, if you were not family, notice that the ending was weak. You would certainly notice that she never told it the same way twice. But if you dared -- dared -- to criticize, a squadron of angry Sterns would be ready to remove you from that warm, crowded, noisy living room. So these aren't stories in the usual sense. They aren't entertainment. They are stories that tell me who I am. Just one warning. They differ dramatically from the story line in "Fiddler on the Roof". Characters not in the musical appear in the stories, the "America gonif" theme, so central to the musical, barely appears in the stories. But that does not matter at all.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Evanston Public Library

    The hardworking, Bible-quoting, comically Job-like Tevye (made famous in the 1960s and '70s by the Broadway and film versions of "Fiddler on the Roof") was created a century ago by Aleichem, aiming to personalize the disintegration of traditional Eastern European shtetl life. (A shtetl was a Jewish village or ghetto.) In three of the early stories, Tevye's headstrong and much-adored daughters challenge him with their marital preferences--each preference a rejection of Tevye's beloved world of tr The hardworking, Bible-quoting, comically Job-like Tevye (made famous in the 1960s and '70s by the Broadway and film versions of "Fiddler on the Roof") was created a century ago by Aleichem, aiming to personalize the disintegration of traditional Eastern European shtetl life. (A shtetl was a Jewish village or ghetto.) In three of the early stories, Tevye's headstrong and much-adored daughters challenge him with their marital preferences--each preference a rejection of Tevye's beloved world of tradition. Other tales show us how shtetl life fostered humor and hope amidst oppression and squalor. Aleichem's Tevye is perhaps less charming and less memorable than Zero Mostel's or Topol's. But he remains one of the great voices in fiction, and his creator is understandably considered the Jewish Mark Twain. (Jeff B., Reader's Services)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A Stanford Book Salon selection for 2012-2013. I cannot speak for others, but for my own part, this book is an emotional journey into my heritage. The village Tevye is from, if real, would have been directly on top of the one my maternal grandparents were from. Since my mother's death a few years ago, I've had no one with whom to speak Yiddish. Now, I have Tevye. Plus, I found the copy I'm reading in a box of my mother's, with several other books of Aleichem's, letters from my grandparents (in Y A Stanford Book Salon selection for 2012-2013. I cannot speak for others, but for my own part, this book is an emotional journey into my heritage. The village Tevye is from, if real, would have been directly on top of the one my maternal grandparents were from. Since my mother's death a few years ago, I've had no one with whom to speak Yiddish. Now, I have Tevye. Plus, I found the copy I'm reading in a box of my mother's, with several other books of Aleichem's, letters from my grandparents (in Yiddish), and other memorabilia from the old country. I'm far too lost in my own history to be much use of anything in any Salon discussion right now. But I am loving all this book has brought me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    Okay, so this book took me a really long time to read, but it was worth it. The pieces in this book are beautiful and smart and funny and also really upsetting sometimes. I used to think that the only good Jewish literature was written in the late 20th to early 21st century, but I've definitely been proven wrong. It's so nice to read a poignant and fun piece on Jewish people. There's so much content about the Jews as suffering and dark, that you tend to forget the funny bits and compassion and l Okay, so this book took me a really long time to read, but it was worth it. The pieces in this book are beautiful and smart and funny and also really upsetting sometimes. I used to think that the only good Jewish literature was written in the late 20th to early 21st century, but I've definitely been proven wrong. It's so nice to read a poignant and fun piece on Jewish people. There's so much content about the Jews as suffering and dark, that you tend to forget the funny bits and compassion and love between Jews, even through the suffering.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anjum Choudhury

    Okay, this is really two books in one, and I think pretty drastically different things about these two different tales. I'll start with Tevye. Tevye is obviously going to be more popular and more beloved, what with Fiddler on the Roof and all, but it's also just a better story collection. Tevye is an interesting character who has a lot happen to him and, generally, we really care about how he's doing. I think that Golde and the daughters are lacking in specific characterization--pretty much any d Okay, this is really two books in one, and I think pretty drastically different things about these two different tales. I'll start with Tevye. Tevye is obviously going to be more popular and more beloved, what with Fiddler on the Roof and all, but it's also just a better story collection. Tevye is an interesting character who has a lot happen to him and, generally, we really care about how he's doing. I think that Golde and the daughters are lacking in specific characterization--pretty much any daughter could be traded out for any other--and this book isn't great for women in general, but, you know, it's over 100 years old. Hard to fault it too much for that. Largely, Tevye is enjoyable. Things are missed when reading the English rather than Yiddish, and not being Sholem Aleichem's target audience. As people not from his time and place, we miss out on the nuances of current events that he's including, as well as a number of jokes lost in translation. Luckily, this book has translations of Tevye's many quotes to clear that up, but it certainly does take away somewhat from the reading experience. Then we have the Railroad Stories. Some were enjoyable...most were pretty boring. I just kind of scanned through them, reading as fast as I could because so few of the stories pulled me in. I'd probably recommend another reader just skip them. There were some gems, but it wasn't really worth digging for them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Not

    When I started the book I definitely would have given it a 5 out of 5 stars. Please remember it's a collection of short stories so it isn't quite fair to judge the whole book on the star review. Aleichem's style of writing is really entertaining and quite babbly (so if that isn't your thing please take note). He tends to ramble on and on but in a histerical way, and that's just my thing. The unfortunate part of that is so ridiculously depressing. I understand it was set in a very depressing time i When I started the book I definitely would have given it a 5 out of 5 stars. Please remember it's a collection of short stories so it isn't quite fair to judge the whole book on the star review. Aleichem's style of writing is really entertaining and quite babbly (so if that isn't your thing please take note). He tends to ramble on and on but in a histerical way, and that's just my thing. The unfortunate part of that is so ridiculously depressing. I understand it was set in a very depressing time in history, and Sholom Aleichem was writing what he knew. I partly wanted to read this book to understand Jews better, and I really think it helped, but after so many short stories about old Jewish fathers losing their children to illness, suicide, and the Rebellion against Russia it was too much. The first half of the book was all stories about Tevye, who is the main character in my favourite Musical, Fiddler on the Roof. The movie is depressing enough, but the stories got worse as they went on. I think the author was trying to make a point on this note, but it did make it far less bearable to read. I still persevered because I love Tevye and his writing style was fun. I really struggled through the Railroad stories however, they likeability of the characters was few and far between in my opinion, and it just felt like constant griping, whining, and swearing after a while. Sorry, not fun to read. Despite this, there was a few funny short stories, especially one where a Christian and Jew get trapped in a runaway train together (there was still profanity though which I don't appreciate). Some of the humour was lost on me, especially in the Railroad stories, but I think it's probably a lack of understanding the Jewish mentality. I can imagine that if you are Jewish you would likely enjoy these stories immensely more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan Cohen

    An interesting and entertaining read, if a little repetitive. The author paints a very distinctive picture of jewry in the Pale of Settlement in the early years of the 20th century. I was surprised to learn that this characterisation had such similarities with that given in the "Fiddler on the Roof" film (which was based on the Tevye stories) as I had wrongly assumed that the latter was based on a very post-war New York version of jewry. It turns out that that New York version is remarkably simi An interesting and entertaining read, if a little repetitive. The author paints a very distinctive picture of jewry in the Pale of Settlement in the early years of the 20th century. I was surprised to learn that this characterisation had such similarities with that given in the "Fiddler on the Roof" film (which was based on the Tevye stories) as I had wrongly assumed that the latter was based on a very post-war New York version of jewry. It turns out that that New York version is remarkably similar to the Pale of Settlement version! The Tevye stories deservedly take lead billing but the Railroad stories are also good and they provide more variety, and hence breadth. For example, whilst Tevye is constantly using quotations (and misquotations) from Hebrew texts, only some of the characters in the Railroad stories do this. One quibble for the publisher: the Hebrew quotations are explained in endnotes rather than footnotes, making it a bit awkward to read the Tevye stories. I do wish publishers would put notes that are likely to be needed by the reader as he or she works through the text in as footnotes instead.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This was one of those precious reads - dear to my heart! I love the musical, and mostly that is because I love Tevye, so reading more of his story was a joy. We could all do with a bit more of his wisdom and philosophy! I would love to get to ride along with him in his dairy cart with his old horse for a day and just listen to him talk. His story and the Railroad Stories reveal so much of Jewish culture, faith, tradition and perpectives. Sometimes this is endearing, other times inspiring. You can This was one of those precious reads - dear to my heart! I love the musical, and mostly that is because I love Tevye, so reading more of his story was a joy. We could all do with a bit more of his wisdom and philosophy! I would love to get to ride along with him in his dairy cart with his old horse for a day and just listen to him talk. His story and the Railroad Stories reveal so much of Jewish culture, faith, tradition and perpectives. Sometimes this is endearing, other times inspiring. You can't help but love the people involved in the stories. I hope Aleichem has been true in his portrayal of Russian Jews as a people. My only criticism is that it was full of too many sad endings - especially Tevye's story. It got to feel too much like Aleichem was trying to outdo himself with each new tragedy. In fact, he practically acknowledges this, I guess. But it did taint it for me, because it started to feel too contrived.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sofie Novak

    This book is split into two sections: Tevye the Dairyman - collection of short stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof - and The Railroad Stories, a collection of short stories that I found incredibly dull. I finished Tevye the Dairyman stories but I skimmed through The Railroad Stories. Fiddler on the Roof is one of my top 3 favourite movies of all time so I was eager to read the stories that inspired the musical. Tevye was a delightful schlimazel and a wonderful narrator. I loved his stories, This book is split into two sections: Tevye the Dairyman - collection of short stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof - and The Railroad Stories, a collection of short stories that I found incredibly dull. I finished Tevye the Dairyman stories but I skimmed through The Railroad Stories. Fiddler on the Roof is one of my top 3 favourite movies of all time so I was eager to read the stories that inspired the musical. Tevye was a delightful schlimazel and a wonderful narrator. I loved his stories, even the heartbreaking ones. The stories aren’t very similar to Fiddler on the Roof but you can see where the inspiration came from, particularly with the three oldest daughters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lilly | mothcub

    I really love Sholem Aleichem's writing and it's great to read the stories Fiddler on the Roof was based on. They're really short, wonderful monologues that paint such a rich picture of the character of Tevye as if he's a guy who is huddling over the apples with me at Tesco (but like, Tesco in 1907). I highly recommend those alone, but the railroad stories are also great vignettes that play to Sholem Aleichem's strengths in short story writing and they are so filled with life, so funny and sad a I really love Sholem Aleichem's writing and it's great to read the stories Fiddler on the Roof was based on. They're really short, wonderful monologues that paint such a rich picture of the character of Tevye as if he's a guy who is huddling over the apples with me at Tesco (but like, Tesco in 1907). I highly recommend those alone, but the railroad stories are also great vignettes that play to Sholem Aleichem's strengths in short story writing and they are so filled with life, so funny and sad and touching. I stan Sholem Aleichem tbh, I just love the constant little funny, charming, descriptive, and often tender ways he writes his lil story chunks.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noelle

    First off, I only read Tevye the Dairyman. I wasn't interested in reading the Railroad Stories, plus that is considered a second book...it has no connection to Rep Tevye. Anyways, Tevye the Dairyman was an okay read. It's not Sholem Aleichem's best work. It felt rather choppy and a bit repetitive. I did like the humor that Rep Tevye brings to the story and it was nice to see what happens to him and his family, although it was very sad. If you're a fan of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, this is First off, I only read Tevye the Dairyman. I wasn't interested in reading the Railroad Stories, plus that is considered a second book...it has no connection to Rep Tevye. Anyways, Tevye the Dairyman was an okay read. It's not Sholem Aleichem's best work. It felt rather choppy and a bit repetitive. I did like the humor that Rep Tevye brings to the story and it was nice to see what happens to him and his family, although it was very sad. If you're a fan of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, this is a great book to read in order to see where the inspiration came from.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    The first part of the book has the stories that became Fiddler on the Roof—they (the writers of the musical) picked the best stories and didn't use some that were really tragic or that didn't go anywhere. They also changed the plot a little, but got some of Shtetl expressions. The second part of the book (the Railroad Stories) was less good. The scribe takes a bunch of train rides and writes down the stories his co-riders relate. This idea is similar to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio's The first part of the book has the stories that became Fiddler on the Roof—they (the writers of the musical) picked the best stories and didn't use some that were really tragic or that didn't go anywhere. They also changed the plot a little, but got some of Shtetl expressions. The second part of the book (the Railroad Stories) was less good. The scribe takes a bunch of train rides and writes down the stories his co-riders relate. This idea is similar to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio's Decameron. It works but gets a little tiring.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alfie Mosse

    If you love Fiddler on the Roof, you will love Tevye the Dairyman even more. Tevye becomes more real. You will feel more love, laughter, anger and sadness as you listen to him tell stories from his life. Since Tevye has daughters, I think especially if you are a father, this book will send you down an emotional experience that will take you places you should go but may not want to. The Railroad Stories are not as much as a roller coaster ride, but they do give you an entertaining look into some If you love Fiddler on the Roof, you will love Tevye the Dairyman even more. Tevye becomes more real. You will feel more love, laughter, anger and sadness as you listen to him tell stories from his life. Since Tevye has daughters, I think especially if you are a father, this book will send you down an emotional experience that will take you places you should go but may not want to. The Railroad Stories are not as much as a roller coaster ride, but they do give you an entertaining look into some facets of Eastern European Jewry.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I read all the Tevye the Dairyman stories, they were great. They were all related but also distinct, and gave me some insight into a different culture and lifestyle. I loved that Tevye was always doing things "not like a woman" but he still deeply loved his daughters and showed it. The other stories were The Railroad Stories and they are okay but they aren't as good. They are more of unrelated vignettes and I find it difficult to get into them. On the other hand, they are short, so by the time I I read all the Tevye the Dairyman stories, they were great. They were all related but also distinct, and gave me some insight into a different culture and lifestyle. I loved that Tevye was always doing things "not like a woman" but he still deeply loved his daughters and showed it. The other stories were The Railroad Stories and they are okay but they aren't as good. They are more of unrelated vignettes and I find it difficult to get into them. On the other hand, they are short, so by the time I'm bored it's over!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Stein

    We all know Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, but the original stories come from writer Sholom Aleichem along with a second series of stories narrated by a long-time railroad passenger. All are translated from the original Yiddish with an incredibly helpful and interesting introduction and a glossary at the back. Tevye's stories trace the history of Jews in Pale of Settlement during the end of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th. They include the stories we know best through Fiddler alo We all know Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, but the original stories come from writer Sholom Aleichem along with a second series of stories narrated by a long-time railroad passenger. All are translated from the original Yiddish with an incredibly helpful and interesting introduction and a glossary at the back. Tevye's stories trace the history of Jews in Pale of Settlement during the end of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th. They include the stories we know best through Fiddler along with other Tevye stories that go beyond the play's plot that focuses on the eldest 3 daughters. For anyone who wants to delve into the best of Yiddish literature, I highly recommend this book. The Tevye stories outshine the Railroad stories but there gems in the latter that make them worth reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This is where Fiddler and the Roof came from. Keep in mind when it was written and try to remember it was not customary for a father to allow his daughters to choose their own husbands. All his remarks about being glad he wasn't a woman bothered me but maybe there was a point behind this. I want to read something else by this person to see how other works compare. Classic story and wish I was more familiar with Yiddish!. This is where Fiddler and the Roof came from. Keep in mind when it was written and try to remember it was not customary for a father to allow his daughters to choose their own husbands. All his remarks about being glad he wasn't a woman bothered me but maybe there was a point behind this. I want to read something else by this person to see how other works compare. Classic story and wish I was more familiar with Yiddish!.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I was inspired by Talia Carner's "The Third Daughter" to seek out the short story "The Man from Buenos Aires'" which is wrapped up in this collection. I've been amused, educated and saddened by these tales. I've ridden with Tevye the dairyman in his cart and travelled 3rd class in early 20th Century Russia. Best of all I've formed a new deeper connection with my long gone grandparents who fled Eastern Europe at that time. I was inspired by Talia Carner's "The Third Daughter" to seek out the short story "The Man from Buenos Aires'" which is wrapped up in this collection. I've been amused, educated and saddened by these tales. I've ridden with Tevye the dairyman in his cart and travelled 3rd class in early 20th Century Russia. Best of all I've formed a new deeper connection with my long gone grandparents who fled Eastern Europe at that time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    First half carries the second The first half is a good strong collection while the second is a little more hit and miss (like having whole stories where the teller is just griping the whole time without a point). There is some real familiarity and tenderness for any Jew that reads and feels a connection that stretches across time

  30. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Hartley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Most of the first bit was nearly the same as fiddler on the roof. It was really good, but I had recently watched fiddler on the roof so that third was a bit hard to get through. The remainder of tevye was good. My favorite portion of the book however were the railroad stories. A great collection of short stories.

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